University students can now study emojis as part of courses in language, marketing, psychology and even politics.
King’s College London, Edinburgh and Cardiff are among the leading institutions to have included the cartoons in their courses.
They are also having wider use in politics and will form a key part of the parties’ social media strategies ahead of the general election next month.
The popularity of emojis, which are used across the globe, poses questions about the future of communication, experts say.
Dr Philip Seargeant, 49, who wrote The Emoji Revolution, teaches pupils about the symbols in the ‘introduction to language’ module at the Open University.
He said: ‘Emojis are incredibly popular, but the study of them can be seen as a bit frivolous and childish.
‘There’s a moral panic around emojis, that they are ruining the way children are learning and ruining the language.
‘This is a perennial worry about new forms of language – there was the same concern about texting 10 years ago.
‘Increasingly now there is actual research going on at universities into emojis. It’s developing into a serious area of study in lots of different areas.
‘There’s more to them than first meets the eye.’
Dr Seargeant said psychologists now study emojis, communications academics look at the symbols and marketing students.
They can teach us about the future of language and also affect identity and politics. And the symbols are now being used for more serious forms of communication. Dr Seargeant said: ‘When you have public mourning over tragedies, a lot of people will use emojis to express their feelings.
‘Politicians are using them for specific things. When Robert Mugabe died, his son just posted an emoji.
‘They are a way of expressing emotions in online written language. This is so important in modern politics.’
Dr Seargeant said political parties are likely to use more emojis than ever before in the December election.
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